Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
This isn’t an episode that often gets mentioned by people when the topic of favorite episodes of Doctor Who comes up, but I really love this episode. "The Shakespeare Code" just has so many things that I love. I LOVE Shakespeare. I’ve taken three different Shakespeare classes in college (and I wanted to take a 4th, but it didn’t fit my schedule). I love reading his plays and I love seeing them performed. So, understandably, this episode gets me all squealy. I also love Harry Potter so the Harry Potter references make me grin. AND I love the thing that RTD does where the plot of the episodes featuring an author reflect that author’s works (e.g. ghosts and Dickens, witches and Shakespeare, and a murder mystery and Agatha Christie). This episode also has some nice douche!Doctor and emo!Doctor moments with a smattering of Rose!angst. Seriously, this is like a recipe for an episode tailored to my interests. The only thing it lacks (keeping it from getting an A+) is that I don’t think it really explores Martha’s character much at all. She’s just “generic companion” here other than her unrequited Doctor crush, which is not my cup of tea.
I also really enjoy the “science” of the episode. The concept of words and names having power, not just metaphorical, but literal is pretty awesome if you ask me. Shakespeare has some of the most beautifully crafted speeches in all of English, so for me his words already have power. But now they have literal power!
Doctor: But a theater’s magic, isn’t it? You should know. Stand on this stage. Say the right words with the right emphasis at the right time. Oh, you can make men weep. Or cry with joy. Change them. You can change people minds just with words in this place…
All of the little calls to Shakespeare’s work makes me grin, even the brief ones like the mention of “a winter’s tale” when the Doctor is doing his Vulcan mind meld with the architect. As a point of interest the two plays that are probably referenced most in this episode, Hamlet and Love’s Labour’s Lost are the two plays that David Tennant did with the RSC a couple of years after this was filmed.
Shakespeare: To be or not to be
Shakespeare: Oooh that's quite good.
The Doctor: You should write that down.
Shakespeare: Bit too pretentious?
The Doctor: [shouting] The play's the thing.
[turning to Shakespeare]
The Doctor: And yes, you can use that.
Doctor: “Once more, unto the breech!”
Shakespeare: I like that! Wait a minute, that’s one of mine.
This one is from Henry V, which isn't one of his better known plays, but I like it. In fact I'm weird because I like a lot of his history plays
The characterization of Shakespeare is also really fun. I love that moment when the Doctor and Martha walk into the pub and Shakespeare is like “ugh fans”, but then he sees Martha and is all like “hey-o!”.
The Doctor: Come on! We can have a good flirt later!
William Shakespeare: Is that a promise, Doctor?
The Doctor: Oh, fifty-seven academics just punched the air. Come on.
The pop culture references in this episode are pretty fantastic too. I love that the Doctor explains time travel theory to Martha in terms of Back to the Future. Hee! I love that movie. And of course the Doctor shows himself to be a Harry Potter fanboy. New canon: the Doctor loves Harry Potter so much, that while he was traveling alone after series 4, he got himself a role in the fourth movie as Barty Crouch Junior. NO ONE CAN CONVINCE ME THAT THIS IS NOT FACT.
Martha Jones: So, magic and stuff? It's a surprise, it's all a bit Harry Potter.
The Doctor: Wait till you read book 7. Oh, I cried.
William Shakespeare: 'Close up this din of hateful decay, decomposition of your witches' plot! You thieve my brains, consider me your toy, my doting doctor tells me I am not!'
Lilith: No! Words of power!
William Shakespeare: 'Foul Carrionite specters, cease your show, between the points-'
[he looks to The Doctor for help]
The Doctor: 761390!
William Shakespeare: '761390! Banished like a tinker's cuss, I say to thee... '
[he again looks to The Doctor]
The Doctor: Uh...
[he looks to Martha]
Martha Jones: Expelliarmus!
The Doctor: Expelliarmus!
William Shakespeare: 'Expelliarmus!'
The Doctor: Good old JK!
This episode features a lot of really great Doctor moments. We get a bit of Time Lord fail!Doctor which I love.
Martha Jones: Do you have to pass a test to fly this thing?
The Doctor: Yes, and I failed it.
Hee! I love it when the show remembers that the Doctor is a bit of a renegade Time Lord and that he wasn’t exactly the star pupil at the Academy.
"The Shakespeare Code" also contains douche!Doctor whom I love. As we saw from “The Christmas Invasion”, the Doctor is rude and not ginger. And now that Rose isn’t there to give him looks when he misbehaves, he is free to inflict his poor social skills and obliviousness on the world around him. Unfortunately Martha gets the brunt of the Doctor’s sensitivity fail this week.
Martha: There’s not much room. Us two here, same bed. Tongues will wag.
Doctor: [completely oblivious to Martha] There’s such a thing as psychic energy, but a human couldn’t channel it like that- not without a generator. […] No… There’s something I’m missing, Martha, something really close. Staring me right in the face and I can’t see it. Rose would know. The friend of mine, Rose. Right now, she’d say exactly the right thing. Still, can’t be helped.
OUCH. Doctor you are such fail at interacting with people sometimes. It is true that Rose was good at observing things and she and the Doctor really meshed as partners, but what’s going on here is that the Doctor isn’t ready to move on from Rose. So he’s fixated on her and the past, and kind of pushes Martha away as a result. And Martha, in spite of her statement at the end of the last episode that she’s only into humans, is so clearly a bit swept off her feet by the Doctor and his charm.
There is also a nice combination of Rose!angst and emo!Doctor in the naming scene with Lilith.
Lilith: Oh but your heart grows cold. A north wind blows and carries down the distant... Rose?
The Doctor: Oh big mistake! Because that name keeps me fighting!
Rose keeps the Doctor fighting. I love that. I also love that “Rose” is the name that Lilith uses to try and get power over the Doctor because it is the name that is closes to his heart(s). And the Doctor gets angry. You do NOT use Rose's name like that and expect to get away with it.